No, I don't mean paying for a newspaper. I'm talking about news organizations -- papers, TV, cable or others -- paying sources for their stories. It goes against the rules of journalism, but it seems more so-called legitimate news organizations have been doing it.
Paying for "exclusive" stories used to be pretty much the domain of the gossip and sensationalist tabloids, who justifyably had little credibility. But lately, real and respected news organizations like ABC News have admitted to paying for stories. They call it a "licensing fee" but let's call it what it is -- checkbook journalism. It calls into question the accuracy of the source: are they lying, or exaggerating to make the story more sensational and, thus, worth more money to the source? We, the news consumers, may never know.
Wayne Friedman, writing in his "Full Frontal Television" column at MediaPost, wonders if the less-glamorous stories as told by non-paid, non "inside" sources are less compelling as drama, might newscasts lose audiences and, thus, sponsors, thereby making it more difficult to suppport news.
Will networks be tempted, he wonders, to try to beef up their news stories by opening their checkbooks to sources, legitimate or not, to reveal details -- real or imagined?
Let's hope not. News is news, not fiction or entertainment.